PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

West Ham 1-1 Stoke: Carroll denies Potters joy in London

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Everything was there for the taking for the Potters, but a late goal from the hosts could prove crucial for Stoke’s chances of survival.

West Ham United and Stoke finished 1-1 at the London Stadium on Monday evening, after Andy Carroll‘s late heroics denied the Potters all three points.

Carroll, who came in as a late substitution, brilliantly volleyed home a ball from Aaron Cresswell in the 90th minute.

Peter Crouch capitalized on Hammers goalkeeper Joe Hart‘s miscue in front of goal, and pounced on a rebound to give the Potters the victory.

For Crouch, the finish gives him the title of all-time leading goalscorer for Stoke in the Premier League.

Hart spilled a shot from Xherdan Shaqiri that came in from the top of the box, while the veteran Englishman was properly positioned to make West Ham pay for the error.

Chances were far and few in the opening stanza, however, Stoke keeper Jack Butland made a massive stop in the first half on Marko Arnautovic when the ball struck the face of the England international.

Stoke moves level on points (28) with 18th place Southampton, however, the Potters still sit five points behind Swansea City in the relegation race with four matches to play.

Meanwhile, the Hammers sit seven points clear of the bottom three, and have an extra game in hand.

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Arsenal wandering no man’s land

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The Premier League’s top-four is all but confirmed this season, which means perennial Champions League sides Chelsea and Arsenal have little to nothing to play for in their final seven games; the same can’t be said for either of their opponents on Sunday…

[ PL ROUNDUP: United deny City their title; Spurs inch closer to Liverpool ]

Arsenal vs. Southampton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal’s quest for a top-four-five-six finish in the PL continues on Sunday, when the Gunners welcome relegation-battling Southampton to the Emirates Stadium, a day after seventh-place Burnley closed the gap to just two points with a 2-1 win over Watford. Form has improved, marginally, in recent weeks (back-to-back league wins, plus three single-leg victories to reach the brink of the Europa League semifinals), but 16 points is the current margin between themselves and fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur. This year’s un-St. Totteringham’s Day could come as soon as next weekend.

18th-place Southampton, meanwhile, face a three-point deficit which represents the difference between the PL and Championship come August. Having lost two straight in the league, and won none in their last five outings, Mark Hughes‘ men are flirting with a return to the second division after five seasons in England’s top flight (and successive finishes of 8th, 7th, 6th and 8th the last four seasons). Last weekend’s 3-0 loss to fellow relegation battlers West Ham United is the season’s low point thus far, though tougher times still appear on the horizon, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City still to come on Saints’ remaining schedule. Finally, Southampton haven’t won in any of their last 22 trips to Arsenal (November 1987).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), David Ospina (ankle), Santi Cazorla (achilles) | Southampton — OUT: None

[ THREE THINGS: What we learned from Man United’s comeback over City ]

Chelsea vs. West Ham United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Much like Arsenal, the final stretch of Chelsea’s season is almost entirely a non-starter — only without the possibility of qualifying for next season’s Champions League by wining the Europa League. Last weekend’s 3-1 loss to Tottenham, the Blues’ first defeat to Spurs at Stamford Bridge in 28 years, all but sealed their place in Europe’s “other” club competition right on the heels of last season’s PL title. Antonio Conte is widely expected to depart in the summer — whether by his choice, or that of Roman Abramovich — and land in any number of high-profile jobs across Europe.

West Ham, on the other hand, enter Sunday’s London derby at Stamford Bridge full of confidence for the first time in months (they lost their three games prior to the win over Southampton, by a combined score of 11-2), and a full five points clear of the relegation zone. Like Saints, though, the Hammers have been woeful in recent years against Sunday’s foe: 11 games without a win at the Bridge (outscored 22-6).

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: Ross Barkley (fitness), David Luiz (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Pedro (knock) | West Ham — OUT: Micahil Antonio (hamstring), Winston Reid (knee), Sam Byram (ankle), Andy Carroll (ankle), Pedro Obiang (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Manuel Lanzini (knee), James Collins (hamstring)

Aubameyang says off-field criticism “goes over my head”

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The Daily Mirror posted a profile on Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late Saturday, speaking with the Gabonese striker as well as a number of people in his life.

[ MORE: PL Saturday roundup ]

Most of the talk dealt with his obsession with soccer, which started as an admirer of his internationally-capped father, but the quotes getting attention come from Aubameyang and deal with his comfort as a flashy personality.

So for those wondering whether the 27-year-old is going to tame his off-field activities now that he’s moved to London, well, it’s unlikely.

Aubameyang has a bit of David Beckham in him, cognizant of his background and relishing his place in life.

“The clothes, the cars and all that are a bonus. I enjoy living this way. I like who I am and it doesn’t matter if other people can’t ­accept that – it goes over my head.

“As they say ‘you only live once’. It’s important to know where you come from and where your roots are – the rest is a big bonus.”

Any number of players, from Andy Carroll to Cristiano Ronaldo, have appreciated the very same things.

It’s not a big deal.

As long as on-field performances accompany them, any criticism is driven by envy or a need to attract a similar form of attention as the player himself.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Sturridge in demand; Pelle to West Ham

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Daniel Sturridge looks set to join a Premier League club on loan between now and the transfer window closing on Wednesday.

Sturridge, 28, is out of form and favor at Liverpool and clubs such as Sevilla and Inter Milan were said to be interested in signing the England international on loan.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]  

However, Newcastle United were thought to be the favorites on Monday, but West Bromwich Albion have now become the clear front-runners to sign Sturridge with Alan Pardew offering him the chance to be their main striker for the rest of the season.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Jurgen Klopp had his say on Sturridge’s future.

“In the next three days a lot will probably happen but nothing to say about that. If there was something it wouldn’t help us, Daniel or the other club to talk about it,” Klopp said.

Are West Brom the best fit for Sturridge? He needs game time if he’s going to have any chance of getting in the England squad for the 2018 World Cup this summer and although Jay Rodriguez scored twice against Liverpool in West Brom’s shock FA Cup win at Anfield at the weekend, his talents are better used out wide. West Brom certainly create better chances for their forwards than Newcastle and you can argue that the Baggies have more momentum than the struggling Magpies at a crucial part of the season.

Pardew’s other attacking options at West Brom are far from prolific with Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu mustering just five PL goals between them this season despite their hard-working displays. Sturridge would add an extra cutting edge to the Baggies attack and if he stays fit he will give them a massive boost in their battle against relegation from the Premier League.

Newcastle and Rafael Benitez must be kicking themselves as another potentially massive deal looks to have fallen at the final hurdle.


West Ham United are expected to be busy in the final days of the window with David Moyes reportedly chasing a new striker and central midfielder.

The Hammers have been linked with moves for Morgan Schneiderlin from Everton and Graziano Pelle from Shandong Lenung.

Schneiderlin, 28, has fallen out of favor at Goodison Park since Sam Allardyce‘s arrival and the French international midfielder has seen his bright start to life at Everton fade badly since Ronald Koeman was sacked at the start of this season.

West Ham have been linked with many holding midfielders in previous windows, including Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, Anderlcht’s Leander Dendoncker and Bournemouth’s Harry Arter, and Schneiderlin’s ability to break the ball up and start attacks would certainly fit the bill. Schneiderlin will reportedly cost $28 million.

His former Southampton teammate Pelle, who has been at Chinese Super League side Shandong Lenung for the past 18 months, earns over $1.2 million per month in China but West Ham are said to want the 31-year-old to return to the Premier League. Italian international Pelle scored 30 goals in two seasons at Southampton from 2014-2016 but has scored just 12 goals in China so far.

With Andy Carroll out injured long-term, plus the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini struggling with smaller injuries and Diafra Sakho sold to Rennes on Monday, Moyes only has Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew to rely on right now.

Pelle’s arrival as a target man may place question marks around Carroll’s future at the London Stadium, especially given Chelsea’s reported interest, but the 32-year-old Italian will want to be compensated handsomely if he is to leave his deal in China 12 months before its expiration.